It’s a critical decision for the entrepreneur that you make before you’re sure and determines you business future: Do you do it entirely by yourself, or do you build a team first, then build the business?
I had an interesting conversation about this last weekend. They were talking about a credible product line that could disrupt a niche industry, maybe. I saw this choice looming up. I thought about it during a two-hour drive home. This is an especially difficult choice to make because you make it right at the beginning and it determines so many other choices, but all in the future.
Here are some thoughts I had about the trade-offs:
- There’s an identity question at the core: Do you like working on your own? Do you like partners to talk to? Can you share decisions? Would you rather control it all?
- Putting together a team can daunting. You need people with different skill sets and experience. And you have to work with them, talk things out, clarify who’s doing what, and why, and how much ownership.
- As soon as you have two people, you have collaboration. You also have politics, decision making, blaming, and supporting one another.
- Angel investors and venture capital firms prefer teams to individuals.
- The bigger the opportunity, the more likely you’ll need outside investment to establish the brand and grow fast.
- Once you bring other people into your business, you can’t go back. Write up your buy-sell agreement of course, and think of it as the prenuptial agreement, but don’t think that makes it easy.
- If you start it alone you can usually bring more people on board later.
- Would you rather have a piece of a watermelon or a whole grape? Individual entrepreneurs, when they’re successful, end up owning the business, not a piece of a larger business.
- How likely is it that if you do it alone, and therefore grow more slowly, you end up just tipping off a big competitor who swoops in and takes over the market?
- How likely is it that if you bring two or three people together that you end up doing nothing but managing relationships and incompatibility.
And I think I could go on with more list points, but 10 is a good number. I hope the combined points give you the impression that there are no easy guidelines or rules of thumb for this one. People are successful either way, and fail either way. You have to make your own choice.